By Lindsay Spratt, Sub Editor

Dominguinhos, the most famous living accordionist in Brazil, with Camarão, photo by
Dominguinhos, the most famous living accordionist in Brazil, with Camarão, photo by

RIO DE JANEIRO – On Saint Lucia’s Day, December 13, 1912, one of the most important Brazilian musicians of the last century was born. Luiz Nascimento Gonzaga from Recife, otherwise known as ‘o rei do baião’ (the king of ‘baião’ music), came to this world.

Baião is a rhythm originating in the northeast of Brazil that first came to popularity in the 50s. Its sound is characterized by the acordeão or sanfona (accordion) and is the grandfather of more modern styles such as forró and xote.

It is from St Lucia’s Day of 1912 that a new documentary about Brazilian accordion music takes its name. ‘O Milagre de Santa Luzia’ (The Miracle of Santa Lucia) takes Gonzaga’s birth as a starting point to explore the ways in which the instrument and sound he made popular have been reinterpreted in different regions of Brazil according to their respective local traditions.

It is a surprise not just for Gringos, but for Brazilians as well, to learn how an instrument with such a strong association to the northeast plays such a diverse and important role in music from all over the country.

The film is directed by Sérgio Roizenblit and presented by Dominguinhos, Brazil’s most famous living accordionist who was given an accordion by Gonzaga at the age of thirteen. During the film, Dominguinhos travels through different regions in Brazil, interviewing local musicians and participating in group sessions. Expect dazzling cinematography of Brazilian landscapes and special performances by other famous accordion players such as the late Mario Zan and Sivuca.

The journey begins in Gonzaga’s birthplace of Exu, Pernambuco, where Dominguinhos interprets a well-known song he composed with Gilberto Gil called ‘Lamento Sertanejo’ (Sertanejo’s Lament). The film then makes its way through the northeast and Rio de Janeiro to the states of São Paulo, Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul.

Renato Borghetti, Gaúcho accordionist, photo by
Renato Borghetti, Gaúcho accordionist, photo by

An insight is gleaned into the identity of each region and the differences in its cultural makeup. A theme emergent from the northeast is that of a migrant’s saudades (longing) for home, while from São Paulo we learn of the tug of both the traditional rural, influences and the cosmopolitan pull of the metropolis. In Rio Grande do Sul the accordion is known as gaita and expresses Gaúcho pride both in the region and in their European ancestry.

The film has been well received by the press and was the winner of awards for best soundtrack and lyrics at the Festival de Brasília do Cinema Brasileiro (Brasilia Festival of Brazilian Cinema ), November 2008. It has been on select release in Rio since Friday August 28 in Unibanco Arteplex, Botafogo, and will be on general release later this month.

For more information about the film (in Portuguese) and to watch the trailer, consult the official website.

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